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Designing the New Kitchen Garden: An American Potager Handbook Hardcover – Illustrated, May 1, 2006

4.4 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Although the tradition of a potager, or kitchen garden, dates back to the Middle Ages, its application in contemporary gardens is a concept whose time has come. For those concerned with the freshness and purity of fruits, vegetables, and herbs, having a bountiful garden just steps from one's kitchen is the ultimate guarantor of healthy eating. Creating these intricately patterned outdoor rooms, however, can perplex even the most accomplished gardeners. Understanding the form is essential to creating an authentic potager, and to that end, Bartley provides extensive historical background, tracing the potager's inception in medieval Europe to its development in modern-day France, where the practice of kitchen gardening has been raised to an art form. Liberally peppered with dozens of detailed design plans from America's premier potagers, and augmented by comprehensive lists of suitable plants, Bartley's entertaining and educational guide to kitchen gardening provides well-documented support for everyone interested in establishing an edible garden in their own backyard. Carol Haggas
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


“This lushly illustrated, 250-page hardback shows layouts for gardens planned to keep their visual appeal throughout the year, gardens that are virtually outdoor rooms.”


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 222 pages
  • Publisher: Timber Press, Incorporated; 1St Edition edition (May 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0881927724
  • ISBN-13: 978-0881927726
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #501,591 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The sub-title for this book might be "A landscape designer dabbles prettily in vegetables" The book is beautifully produced, although I found the strong raking light in some of the photographs actually obscured the plants.

The chapter of historical background is almost worth the price of admission itself (if you're interested in history and the history of gardening) Although somewhat preciously phrased, the author does remind us of the connection of spirit, body, and garden, something we may forget when we in the middle of a vicious battle with cabbage loopers.

But the excursions into real gardens felt to me like a fantasy. If these gardens are meant to be inspiring, they failed with me. Every page I turned reminded me that these gardens are big, and clearly cost a lot of money to build and maintain. I never had a clear sense of the good eating that should be coming out of these gardens. And of course, nothing ever seems to go wrong in these gardens; there is no sense of how the gardeners have learned and evolved their gardens over time.

For a book ostensibly about "American" potager gardening, most of the country was omitted. Including midwest, southern, and western garden would have been a big help.

The design chapter starts off on the wrong foot by discussing a potager garden that was never built. Even worse, it was never built in a large urban space with which few of us will ever have to contend, so I fail to see the point. The second garden design discussed, designed for a small restaurant, also has not been built. The third garden is the author's own, now giving me the uncomfortable feeling that the entire book is a vanity project.

When the winter weather keeps you indoors, this will not a bad book to page through; just don't let it be the only book on your shelf about potager gardening.
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Format: Hardcover
`Designing the New Kitchen Garden, An American Potager Handbook' by professional garden design consultant, Jennifer R. Bartley is a very serious book, absolutely perfect for the zone 6 snowbound gardener to buy in December, when nothing is growing, and it's even too cold to start hardscaping projects.

What I mean here is that not only does the book give very serious guidance on how to build a potager garden, it gives oodles of historical perspective on how the potager garden design evolved from pre-Christian times, through the Middle Ages and Renaissance, with it's flowering in the monastary and royal gardens of France.

One thing to point out early in this review is that the book covers practically nothing about things culinary, in spite of the fact that various methods for categorizing this book put it cheek and jowl with books on culinary subjects, which is how I happened to run across it. But as long as I'm on the subject, its important to note that a good reference on gardening techniques must almost by definition have lots of interesting text and pictures for the armchair. While you can always cook, you cannot always garden, and in temperate climes, there will always be many months of down time. This book is the perfect antidote. In fact, as good as this book is, it is almost completely composed of material for thinking and planning and not about digging, laying stone, or planting. The `Designing' of the title must be taken very seriously. There are no recipes here for laying a gravel walk or laying out a herringbone brick path. Go to your Home Depot manuals and hardscaping texts for theses skills.
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Format: Hardcover
The concept of edible landscaping is given a boost toward a practical and beautiful kitchen garden in this book. The history behind kitchen gardens ("potagers", that is gardens designed around culinary use rather than solely appearance) is interesting and lively, and the sections on a few modern garden case studies is useful.

The book stumbles a bit in assuming you already know elements of design, and doesn't discuss the practical considerations of some of them. The examples of "shade mapping" could use a little explanation alongside the drawings; I found them confusing. And there's very little discussion of what to plant when -- presumably you'll decide these on your own with various seed catalogs spread around you, if you can find catalogs that detail things such as plant height and habit, colors and seasons. I haven't found many vegetable seed catalogs that spend time on these sorts of topics, and I was hoping this book would provide some illumination.

Still, there are plenty of suggestions and examples for making your vegetable garden a place of beauty as well as a producer of foods and herbs for your kitchen. My personal leanings are toward the concept that a vegetable garden is beautiful if you can see the significant amount of food you'll be eating from it and so regular plots of densely packed plants are just fine; but I'm sure my spouse will enjoy the more formal look the veggies and herbs will take on in next year's garden as a result of this book.

Do you want a vegetable garden that people -- non-gardening people -- would actually want to walk through? Are you capable of designing a beautiful layout but need a nudge in the right directions? Then this is a good book for you. I'd have prefered more meat in it, so to speak, particularly for the $35 I spent on it.
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